Lewis, Park set to battle for LPGA supremacy


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Stacy Lewis isn’t content to sit and watch Inbee Park roll up a monstrous lead as the Rolex world No. 1.

Lewis wants the top ranking back.

Winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open Sunday with so much of the week’s focus on Park’s bid to become the first man or woman to win four consecutive professional major championships in a single season is a determined step in Lewis challenging Park’s reign.

Lewis ascended to Rolex world No. 1 in March, when she won the R.R. Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, ending Yani Tseng’s run of 109 consecutive weeks atop the world rankings. Lewis held the top spot for four weeks before Park took it from her. Park has been atop the rankings ever since, for 17 weeks.

“I don’t feel like I lost it,” Lewis said after winning the Women’s British Open. “I definitely haven’t been playing my best the last few months, but I don’t feel like I lost it. I just feel Inbee was playing better.

“If anything, it made me want to go practice and want to work harder to be better. It made me realize what I was doing was pretty good, but she’s doing something that’s even better, so I need to go out there and I need to work hard. If I get back there, when I get back there, I just want to enjoy it more. When I got there in March, I was overwhelmed and busy and never really got to enjoy it. So, I want to get back there just so I can enjoy it a little more.”

Park formidably stands in the way. Even in losing the Women’s British Open, Park believes the pressure she withstood will only make her better as a player, stronger as a person.

“I just had a great experience,” Park said after tying for 42nd at the Women’s British Open. “I might not have won this week, but I learned.”

Park learned more about how pressure affects her. She believes no future challenge will seem as daunting.

“I have done something like this already, so I could do anything from now on,” Park said.

Park and Lewis have been the best players in the women’s game over the last two seasons.

Park has won eight LPGA titles in 2012 and ’13 combined, with six titles this year, including the first three majors of the year. Last year, she claimed the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average.

Lewis has won seven times over the last two seasons, with three titles this year, including the second major of her career. Last year, she was the Rolex Player of the Year.

Park and Lewis look equipped to continue to battle for the tour’s most prized trophies and awards.

They’re 1-2 in more than one statistical category this season.

Lewis is No. 1 in scoring average (69.78), Park is No. 2 (69.79).

Park is No. 1 in official money ($2,147,619), Lewis is No. 2 ($1,319,383).

Park is No. 1 in putts per GIR (1.72), Lewis is No. 2 (1.75).

Park is No. 1 in Rolex Player of the Year points (281), Lewis is No. 2 (161).

If Lewis is going to overtake Park at No. 1, she still has a lot of work to do. Park’s world ranking average is 12.91, Lewis’ 9.74. Still, with her Women’s British Open triumph, Lewis trimmed nearly two full points off Park’s lead on her in the rankings.

Lewis understands how different the dynamic becomes when you’re the world No. 1, and she admires the effort Park put together to win the year’s first three majors.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see three in a row again,” Lewis said. “That’s pretty incredible.

“She went to the U.S. Open with all those questions. She had to answer all those questions every single day, about winning it, and she still did it. I find it hard to believe anybody gets four in a year.”

Park still has a chance at becoming the first professional to win four majors in a year with the Evian Masters becoming the LPGA’s fifth major this year. Lewis will be looking to prevent her from doing that next month.

The top two players in the world go in different directions the next few weeks. Lewis is headed to the Colorado Golf Club with the rest of the American Solheim Cup team for a couple days of practice before next week’s matches against the Europeans. Park is going home to South Korea, where she will rest the next couple days.

The next time they could compete again is the CN Canadian Women’s Open in three weeks.